Tenants from 85 Bowery Go on Hunger Strike to Protest Delay in Repairs
Displaced tenants from 85 Bowery are on hunger strike, foregoing food until the city forces the emergency replacement of the crumbling staircase.
Landlord Joseph Betesh had been forced, via court order, to remedy the problem within two weeks of the eviction on January 19. That deadline passed last Thursday. Yesterday, eight strong gathered on the steps of Housing Preservation and Development and launched the strike. There they will remain for the duration.
Concerned volunteers brought in chairs and cots for the tenants. And apparently, they can warm up inside.
“I spoke with building security and they were very understanding and sympathetic to tenants and will allow them access to use restrooms and warm up during building hours,” a tipster at the scene told us.
Despite the media circus, the infrastructure fix at 85 Bowery is likely at least six weeks out, by some estimates. The replacement stairs are expected to arrive in roughly two weeks; it’ll then be another four weeks (at least) for installation, plus an additional week or two to “demolish interior partitions that are blocking emergency exits.”
Until then, nearly 100 residents must live in exile. None have been permitted to return home to retrieve personal belongings. Most are still wearing the same clothes as the day the city came to evict them. 63 of the tenants are living on the Betesh dime at the Wyndham Garden Hotel next door, allegedly until construction is complete; the remaining are staying with friends or still holed up in the Brooklyn shelter.
“The tenants of 85 Bowery continue to be without a home, and it’s critical that repairs be done quickly and safely so families can return to their homes as soon as possible,” Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou said in a statement. “I understand tenants’ skepticism on repairs given the landlord’s track record of willful neglect, and I will continue to push both the City and landlord for accountability and speedy construction. It is a positive step that the City is exploring taking over repairs should the landlord fail to meet construction milestones. However, the pressure must be kept as we approach three weeks since the vacate order left dozens of families homeless.”
Below is a letter from HPD describing the situation in depth.